Sufferers of Parkinson’s disease can look forward to using a new medical device to help combat the hand tremors associated with the onset of the disease. The GyroGlove, a device invented by 26 year-old Faii Ong, can be worn in order to stop the hand tremors that Parkinson’s patients often experience and steady their hands. The new invention was named the GyroGlove because its concept is based on the way in which gyroscopes function and it uses their dynamics to steady the wearer’s hands: a gyroscope consists of a rotating wheel whose axis can turn towards any direction and it can maintain its direction regardless of the other movements that take place in the space that surrounds it.
How the GyroGlove was created
As gyroscopes have been used to maintain equilibrium and to establish a direction, Faii Ong used these abilities in order to perfect his GyroGlove and provide Parkinson’s sufferers with a functional medical device to help steady their arms. Tremors are one of the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder which affects the central nervous system and impairs muscular coordination. The new invention will help Parkinson’s sufferers to limit the hand tremors they are experiencing and use their hands in daily tasks. The gyroscope inside the glove provides resistance that limits the limb from making a turn left or right and causes it to steady down.
Faii Ong, the inventor of the GyroGlove, was inspired to create such a device when he was 24 years old. A medical student at the time, he was caring for a 103 year-old patient that was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Faii Ong noticed that the patient was having trouble completing normal everyday tasks such as eating a bowl of soup because of the frequent and substantial tremors and discovered that the available treatment drugs such as lithium were generally ineffective in helping Parkinson’s patients decrease these tremors.
Ong then decided to try to solve the problem by resorting to physics and thus started working on a prototype for the GyroGlove. He considered using several materials and methods in order to achieve his goal, including weights, hydraulics, elastic bands, robots and springs but ultimately found that the best course of action would be to use a gyroscope. Faii Ong went on to explain in an interview detailing his new invention that mechanical gyroscopes try to stay upright at all times and conserve angular momentum in order to do so. Because of this, Ong decided to use gyroscopes in order to immediately offer a proportional amount of resistance to a person’s hand movement and limit the hand tremors that the wearer would normally experience.
The prototype was then tested in the Imperial College London’s prototyping laboratory and Ong worked alongside other university students to fine-tune the device and make slight adjustments in order to refine it. Two years after Ong first had the idea of using physics to stop hand tremors in Parkinson’s patients, he and his company, GyroGear, have perfected a prototype and the final product was found to reduce hand tremors by as much as 90 percent.
How the GyroGlove works
If we were to narrow the GyroGlove down to its essential components we could say the device is basically made of a small gyroscope placed inside a plastic casing which is attached to the back of a glove. It is battery powered and once it is turned on the GyroGlove will cause resistance that will counter the wearer’s movements, limiting the shaking. A circuit board built into the device controls both the precession hinge and the turntable used for defining the orientation of the gyroscope. The glove itself can stop tremors in the hand and fingers whether the limb is moving or resting so elderly Parkinson’s patients with advanced forms of the disease can easily perform daily routines and tasks that had been previously hard to accomplish because of the tremors. As long as the device is turned on any involuntary tremors will be corrected whenever the symptom manifests itself, regardless of whether the arm is holding something, grabbing an object, moving or simply at rest. The company plans to release an app that will accompany the GyroGlove and that will track the hand tremors experienced by the patient as well as help calibrate the device accordingly.
How the GyroGlove will help Parkinson’s patients
The medical device is still waiting for patent approval and no known release date has been announced by the company as of yet but GyroGear has been working with patients for test trials in the meantime. As current treatments for Parkinson’s disease have proven to be ineffective in limiting the tremors that sufferers experience, the GyroGlove brings new hope to many patients that are currently living with the disease. For many Parkinson’s disease patients, not being able to use their hands in everyday tasks is a source of constant stress and anxiety as it limits what types of social activities they can take part in. As it is a degenerative disorder like MS, Parkinson’s disease progresses over time and the frequency and intensity of the tremors increase at the same rate. The tremors are small at first, similar to the muscular spasms and tremors associated with alcohol withdrawal and the shaking is not unlike that experienced by a recovering alcoholic. However the apparently benign, small tremors and the shaking grow significantly as the disease progresses. Patients find it increasingly difficult to maintain control of their limbs as the disease advances until it eventually becomes impossible for them to perform many common actions and routines. For these patients, the GyroGlove could mean a new found independence and the ability to once again take control of their actions and lives. Although no official release date or price have been announced for the GyroGlove as of yet, the estimated price for the device is expected to be between $550 and $850 and it is hoped that it will be released by the end of 2016.